Is 2018 really the year for HTC’s vision of VR?
Virtual reality (VR) is meant to be one of those “technologies to watch” beloved of the tech press’s annual round-ups of areas of interest to keep an eye on in the forthcoming year.
But for business today, what does VR have to offer? While HTC’s Vive for Business was released June 2017, the latest release from the Taiwanese tech giant, the higher-specced Vive Pro early this year, will have re-invigorated interest in the platform.
From the start, HTC has stated that the consumer versions of its headsets are not suitable for business purposes. The technical reasons for this are unclear (if they exist at all), but companies using consumer versions of the headsets in commercial settings will be violating the company’s Ts & Cs, and thus voiding the warranty.
Any organization expecting to purchase the full complement of virtual reality hardware and expect to receive an immediate return on investment is going to be disappointed. There is not, as yet, a vast array of applications, or virtual worlds, which can be put to use in most instances.
But there are some exceptions to this rule, and any enterprise willing to dedicate some development time to a VR project will find that the path is laid out for developers in ways which should make the creation of unique, business-context experiences eminently viable.
At present, the most common VR applications are designed for use by customers to experience an environment or offering. Interiors of real estate properties, buildings, architectural concepts, kitchen designs and workspace explorations are all a real possibility, relatively quickly after set-up.
By navigating around modeled environments, it is possible for customers and colleagues to get something of the look-and-feel of a place, perhaps as an initial introduction to a proposed purchase.
By dint of the same technology, 3D designers can upload their .dae files into some apps (Strata’s inStudioVR, for example), and interact with & share their creations across a network.
The platform showcasing business-type applications is HTC’s Viveport. Here, there are many hundreds of pre-written environments & experiences being shared or sold, and many are free to download and experiment with. Some applications are a few dollars to purchase, and some require a subscription – already part of the Business Edition package (which also includes software updates and extra support).
Once business users’ eyes have are open to the possibilities, HTC offers several development paths, including an SDK, plug-ins for SteamVR (Valve are co-developers of the platform with HTC), and full Unity and Unreal Engine compatibility.
In addition to the headset, sensors and controllers, organizations will need to find the resources to acquire a fairly heftily-specced PC, akin to the cost of a medium to high-end gaming rig – kit of around the US$2000 mark will be required, on top of other hardware costs.
In conclusion, if you have a physical (or virtual) space or environment you need to explore or have your customers explore, then VR in the guise of the HTC Business Edition may fit the bill.
Furthermore, enterprises with some development prowess on tap may also wish to explore the myriad possibilities in their own time. Examples available on Viveport include a car mechanics training environment, and some medical simulations – the training and education possibilities may well bear fruit, given enough expenditure of coding effort.
VR has moved on from its early days of nausea-inducing gimmickry, and early adopters have a real chance of capitalizing on burgeoning consumer and business interest in this emerging platform. Now might be the time to steal a virtualized jump on the opposition.